JAMES REID COLE, one of the noted educators of Texas and the South, came to Dallas in 1889 as the founder and president of a “Classical and Military school” which came to be known as the Cole School. Invited by a number of leading citizens to open his private school here, Cole conducted it for the next thirteen years. During this time many of the future business and civic leaders of Dallas received their education from Cole and other members of his fine faculty, which included the pioneer Dallas artist Frank Reaugh, whose paintings of herds of Texas cattle on the range are now the prized property of the University of Texas at Austin. Professor G. A. Harmon, another faculty member, headed the commercial department with its accounting, penmanship, and allied subjects. His son was the late Frank Harmon, long a prominent member of the Dallas Bar. Among pupils listed on the school rolls over the years were George Atkins, Alex Camp, Roy Munger, Fred Schoellkopf, Elihu Sanger, Murphy Townsend, Herbert and Howard Ardry, Isador Kahn, James Bower, Willie W. Caruth, and Edgar and William Flippen.
Cole was a native of North Carolina, a graduate of Trinity College there, a colonel in the Confederate Army, and a professor and college administrator of wide experience who came to Texas after the Civil War. In Texas, Cole served as a member of the faculty of historic McKenzie College at Clarksville, as president of what subsequently was called Kidd-Key College at Sherman, and as a member of the faculty, and then president, of Texas A&M University. Born in 1839, Cole was the son of William Carter Cole, a veteran of the War of 1812,
a North Carolina planter, and a minister of the gospel. He received the B.A. degree from Trinity University just before the Civil War and returned after Appomattox to receive the M.A. from the same institution. Cole’s military service began before the Civil War when he was a member of the Guilford Greys of the state of North Carolina. He joined the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the war, enlisting in the Second North Carolina Cavalry, and rising ultimately to become a colonel in command of a regiment.
Cole’s military record included participation in the battles of New Berne, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, where, after the battle, he personally carried the body of his slain brother (a lieutenant colonel) off the field. Dnring the latter part of his life he was an enthusiastic member of the United Confederate Veterans, including Dallas’s Camp Sterling Price, for which he was long the historian.
In the fall of 1866 Cole came west of the Mississippi to settle in Clarksville, Red River County, where he became chairman of the Department of Ancient Languages at McKenzie College, which then had a student body of some one hundred men and a dozen or two young ladies. He was later persuaded to become president of the Bonham Masonic Female Seminary. After two years there he took a job teaching in the Canaan Institute of Grayson County near Sherman. In Sherman, Cole met the well-known physician Dr. R. D. King and his daughter, Mary Parish King, whom he married in 1868. The next year he was elected to the House at Austin and served four terms as a member of the state legislature. It was in 1877 that he accepted the presidency of the North Texas Female College at Sherman, predecessor of Kidd-Key College. In 1878 Cole was offered and accepted chairmanship of the department of English Literature and History at Texas A&M, then only two years old. He remained for six years, the last two as president of the college. In 1885 Cole was persuaded by the citizens of Abilene to move to their city to straighten out and supervise their public school system. He remained superintendent there until he came to Dallas in 1889.
The Cole School occupied three buildings erected on a large tract between Ross and San Jacinto, extending from Leonard on the east to Pearl on the west. He also built his family home, a handsome Queen Anne style, two-story structure that faced on Ross immediately across from Sacred Heart Cathedral.
When the school was discontinued in 1904 Cole joined the faculty of a Baptist university which was operating in Oak Cliff. He retired from his active career in 1908 and died in 1917.